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Barbara K's Story

28th May 2024

Viral meningitis has been a life-changing experience for Barbara, who fell ill aged 49 with intense sinus pain, stiff neck, back pain, intolerance to light and vomiting in May 2017. Fortunately, she found the time to concentrate on recovery and finding her new normal. Barbara, from the Scottish Borders, recounts her experience here.

Barbara K's blog frame

“I wish the healthcare system and employers had a better understanding of how debilitating viral meningitis can be.”

Viral meningitis was a life-changing experience for me. Over the course of a week what I thought was sinusitis progressed to the worst headache I’ve ever experienced and a week in hospital, which is still a hazy memory.

“I was reasonably fit, running three times a week and working full-time in a very busy HR role. I initially pushed through and was prescribed antibiotics from my GP for sinusitis, but did not improve.

“As the headache and neck pain got worse a visit to an out-of-hours surgery diagnosed migraine and told me to use ice and heat to relieve the pain.

Admitted to hospital

“After 24 hours of throwing up and another visit to the GP I was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with viral meningitis. Discharged seven days later with some antiviral meds I was told I’d feel better in a couple of weeks.

“Fast forward a few weeks and I’m sitting in the GP’s office crying, due to still feeling ill, exhausted and nauseous. I still had daily headaches, couldn’t stand and walk from the couch to the bathroom without throwing up and the fatigue was crippling. My eyes were still affected with blurred vision and light sensitivity.

“My GP was wonderful and thankfully understood the aftermath of viral meningitis. He reassured me that it was not always possible to bounce back and helped me understand that rest, rest and more rest along with healthy eating would be the journey to recovery.

Time to recover

“I went back to work on reduced hours eight weeks later but still found that very difficult and began to realise that I would need to find a part-time job with less stress. Luckily for me I was able to give up my job as my husband was offered a role in the USA, so we moved. While there I was able to get the time I needed to recover.

“It took approximately 18 months for me to feel ‘normal’, but seven years on I still have migraines and cluster headaches, which are managed with medication. I was recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia.

“I have accepted my new normal and listen to my body. Gone are the days of running three times a week and high-impact exercise classes, but I enjoy long dog walks and gentle exercise.

“I feel very fortunate that I was given the opportunity to rest fully and make a good recovery.

“I wish the healthcare system and employers had a better understanding of how debilitating viral meningitis can be and the myth that it’s just a ‘bad flu’ is debunked.”